Series Preview #5: Cleveland Indians (6-7) at Detroit Tigers (6-4)
Bob Toth | On 16, Apr 2014
It does not seem to matter if the Cleveland Indians are at home or on the road, Mother Nature refuses to let the team play baseball on Tuesdays.
The first game in the series between the Indians and Detroit Tigers in the Motor City was cancelled due to snow and cold temperatures on Tuesday. Mercifully, a doubleheader for the third consecutive week to start the season was not in the cards and the game will be replayed at a date to be decided later on this season.
Even with the shortened series, games in mid-April rarely have the significance that the Indians matchup this week with the Tigers has. After finishing last season 4-15 against Detroit, the Indians will look to get off to a better start this season against their chief division rival. They are just 2-5 within the American League Central Division so far in 2014.
The Indians started off their seven-game road trip on the wrong foot. They dropped each of their first two games against the Chicago White Sox on Friday and Saturday thanks in part to short pitching performances from Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco and a lack of offensive production. They recovered on Saturday with a 12-run eruption in a 12-6 victory, but wasted a quality start by Corey Kluber on Sunday. After scoring two runs in the top of the ninth to take their first lead, the Indians’ John Axford allowed a two-run walkoff home run to Alexei Ramirez in the bottom of the frame.
Detroit came away from an interleague road trip with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres last week with a 2-3 record. They were blanked by the Padres on Friday, 6-0, on a complete game one-hit shutout by Andrew Cashner. They rebounded on Saturday with a 6-2 victory behind seven strong innings from Justin Verlander. The Padres claimed the rubber match on Sunday, defeating Max Scherzer 5-1.
Zach McAllister (1-0, 2.31 ERA) will take the mound on Wednesday for manager Terry Francona. He gave the Indians seven and two-thirds innings of shutout ball in a 2-0 win against San Diego on Wednesday. Anibal Sanchez (0-0, 3.00) will make the game’s first pitch at 7:08 PM ET. He dealt with posterior shoulder inflammation throughout the spring. He was 2-0 against Cleveland last season in three starts with a 2.79 ERA.
Salazar (0-1, 6.75) will make his third start of the season in Thursday’s afternoon matinee. His longest career start of seven and two-thirds innings and career-high ten strikeouts came in his second career start last season against the Tigers on August 7th. Verlander (1-1, 2.57) will be bumped up a day in the rotation by rookie manager Brad Ausmus after earning his first win in his last start on Saturday versus San Diego. The finale is scheduled for 1:08 PM ET.
Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and the MLB Network will air each of the games this week. Wednesday night’s contest will be additionally aired on Fox Sports Detroit+ and Thursday’s finale will be broadcast on Fox Sports Detroit. Radio broadcasts of each game in the series will be available on the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and on 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit.
TRANSACTIONS and INJURIES
Outfielder Michael Bourn completed his rehab trip in the minor leagues and was activated Tuesday. Outfielder Nyjer Morgan was optioned to Columbus, despite hitting .348 and posting a .484 on-base percentage in nine games with four runs batted in, three stolen bases, and seven walks.
Jason Giambi will continue his minor league rehab assignment at Akron as he recovers from a fractured rib sustained in the spring. He could be activated as soon as this coming weekend.
Detroit lost reliever Bruce Rondon to Tommy John surgery late in Spring Training. He will miss the season. Shortstop Jose Iglesias is expected to miss the majority of the season with stress fractures in both of his shins and is on the 60-day disabled list.
Outfielder Andy Dirks is expected to be out until June as he recovers from back surgery in March. He is on the 15-day disabled list.
The Tigers were 6-3 last season at Comerica Park against Cleveland.
McAllister has had no luck against Detroit in his career. He is 0-2 with a 4.85 ERA in six starts. The Tigers have hit .325 against him. Last season, he threw a combined 12 innings in three starts with a pair of losses and a 9.00 ERA. The eight Detroit players to face him before are a combined .383 against him.
Miguel Cabrera is off to a slow start for the Tigers. He has nine hits in 40 at bats (.225) with one home run and four RBI. He has crossed home plate just one time this season. The back-to-back AL MVP winner has a .333 career batting average against the Indians with 32 home runs and 102 RBI, tied for his largest total against any one team. He hit six of those home runs and drove in 20 of the runs last season while hitting .317.
Kipnis has struggled against Detroit’s left-handed starters. He is hitting .176 against Sanchez with six strikeouts in 18 plate appearances.
Swisher has just two singles in 15 plate appearances against Sanchez with seven strikeouts.
Michael Brantley and David Murphy have found success against Verlander. Brantley has 15 hits in 38 at bats (.395) against him. Murphy has reached eight times via hit and two more times with a walk in 28 plate appearances.
The Indians and Tigers have played more head-to-head games against each other than any other opponents in their respective histories. The Tigers own the all-time advantage with 1,086 wins and 1,042 losses in 2,140 games.
DETROIT CASHED IN THANKS TO LANE
This past weekend marked the anniversary of one of the more questionable trades in the history of the Indians and Tigers. On April 12th, 1960, Indians general manager Frank “Trader” Lane traded first baseman Norm Cash to the Tigers for catcher Steve Demeter.
The Indians had 32-year-old Vic Power at first base, making Cash somewhat expendible. Power was a sound defender, posting a .996 fielding percentage over the course of the 1960 season in 147 games. He was steady at the plate, batting .288 on the year with ten home runs and a team-high 84 RBI.
The 25-year-old Cash played 121 games for Detroit in 1960, including 99 games at first base. The lefty hit .286 that season with 18 home runs and 63 RBI. The next season, he would post career-best numbers in batting average (.361), on-base percentage (.487), slugging percentage (.662), home runs (41), RBI (132), and hits (193). He led all of baseball in batting average and on-base percentage and led the American League in hits and intentional walks. He would spend 15 seasons in total in Detroit at first base, batting .272 in his Tigers career with 373 home runs.
Demeter had just eleven games of Major League experience under his belt, all with the Tigers in 1959, when the Indians acquired him. He would appear in just four games for Cleveland in 1960 and was hitless in five at bats with a strikeout. Demeter, the grandfather of current Miami Marlins middle infielder Derek Dietrich, would spend eleven more seasons in the minor leagues, but would never again play in an MLB game.
The Indians will return home after the game Thursday to begin a weeklong home stand, starting with the Toronto Blue Jays in a three-game weekend set beginning Friday. The Tigers will continue their ten-game home stand with three games with the Los Angeles Angels starting Friday night.
Photo: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh